© Alexei Khovanov @ Russia Beyond the Headlines. 02 May, 2014
The Kremlin, Pskov
This was the first time that UNESCO held its annual session in Russia. Russian people were most of all interested in the main issue on the agenda, the extension of the UNESCO World Heritage List. Russia had submitted an unusual serial nomination of ‘Russian Kremlins’ for consideration. It consisted of three fortresses dating back to the 13th -17th centuries. They were the Kremlins of old Russian cities, such as Pskov in the north-west of the country, Uglich in Central Russia and Astrakhan in the south, in the Volga delta. To many people’s disappointment, this nomination was declined.
The Kremlins of Pskov, Uglich and Astrakhan have been submitted by Russia for UNESCO’s consideration more than once. They have been on the so-called preliminary list for a long time, Irina Zayeeka from Russia’s Union of Architects who participated in the session says.
“According to the rules, before being put on the UNESCO list, monuments go through numerous expert examinations and then get on a preliminary list. Over 30 Russian monuments are on this list but all of them are stuck there without being discussed. The last Russian monument to be put on the preliminary list was the historical centre of Yaroslavl in 2005. Our main problem is that there is no executive body which would deal with Russian monuments of the World Cultural Heritage. This circumstance is an obstacle for controlling the preliminary list, preparing nominations and a lot of other events.”
Incidentally, at present the Russian cultural monuments that are on the preliminary list are very different in value. Among them are the 10th century city of Bolgar in Tatarstan and the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour which was reconstructed from scratch in 1997 on the site of the demolished original cathedral. Generally speaking, these preliminary lists are a big headache and a reason for many countries to complain of UNESCO. For example, Italy, which heads the World Heritage List due to the number of its historical monuments, has submitted an additional list of 40 monuments most of which have been stuck for already six years. Spain follows Italy in respect of the number of its historical monuments, a lot of which are also on the ‘list of applicants’. The same is true of India, Japan and many other countries.
Naturally, all countries that have signed the UNESCO ‘protection convention’ do their best to make their cultural monuments well-known in the world. When a monument has been put on the UNESCO list, its status is elevated and it receives international support in case of any danger. If countries are so eager for their monuments to be put on the UNESCO list they should observe simple but very strict rules. They should ban new construction on the grounds of the monuments and in close proximity to them. They should also guard them well, otherwise the monuments will be deprived of their honourable status, which happened, for example, to Dresden in Germany after a bridge across the Elbe was built in the city’s historical area. Now English Liverpool is facing such a sanction because city construction is ‘infringing the rights’ of the historical docks. Alexey Butorin, a Russian participant in the UNESCO session, says that Russia has not violated the rules so far, so we hope to go up on the UNESCO list.
© The Voice of Russia. 11 July, 2012
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